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Enjoy a post Thanksgiving tour you'll be very thankful for experiencing.

You'll enjoy a luxury cruise along the Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg.

Plenty of included shore excursions (at no extra charge) make this a varied kaleidoscope of European life, enhanced by the seasonal Christmas markets where a delightful variety of local craft items are offered for sale.

Additional Travel Insider exclusive touring options before and after the cruise make for a total wonderful experience that you'll treasure forever (or, at least, in the case of many Travel Insiders, until you choose to repeat it again!).

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Detailed Day by Day Itinerary for the 2017
Danube River Christmas Markets Cruise

You should be in this picture, too!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  And the proof of our praise of these lovely Christmas cruises is surely in this picture of the wine and food galore being enjoyed by some Travel Insiders at dinner on our 2015 Christmas cruise, also on the Amacerto.

Tour Itinerary

Join a small select group of fellow Travel Insiders on this luxury cruise/tour of up to five countries in Europe's heartland, in December 2017.

Tasteful luxury abounds on the lovely Amacerto.

Our tour combines major capital cities with small unassuming villages, interspersed with sometimes unspoiled pure nature in the raw.

Flexibility is a distinctive feature, with many times you having a choice of different touring activities (all free!) during our port stops, helping ensure you see and do exactly what you want.

Here are the details of what we’ll do each day during this wonderful experience.

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.

And if you'd like more information on what you'll see and enjoy on this cruise, here is a day by day photo journal of a similar Christmas cruise.

Detailed Daily Itinerary

Sunday 10 December - or sooner :  Leave the US

Take an overnight flight from the US to Europe today.

You can either make your own arrangements to travel to Budapest, or else take advantage of the air addon to the cruise fare.

You should leave the US today or earlier, so as to arrive in Budapest on Monday (or sooner) in time for the start of the Christmas Markets Danube River Cruise, with boarding scheduled for Monday afternoon.

We suggest you should arrive at least a day before the start of the cruise.  This gives you some 'just in case' time, should something come up during your travels (and the travels of your bags too!) and also some time to decompress and un-jetlag after the journey.

You could simply come a day or two early and spend the time at a Budapest hotel, but to turn the extra time into a positive, please consider our optional one or two night extensions, immediately below.

Note - If you've chosen an optional pre-cruise extension, please read the blue bordered option sections immediately below.  Otherwise, if you'll arrive on Monday, skip on down to the green bordered section starting on Day 1, Monday 11 December.


Optional Extension 1 One extra night in Budapest, Monday touring

(Sunday 10 December) - Budapest

A view across the Danube to central downtown Budapest, also showing a couple of river cruise ships moored.

If you decide to add one night in Budapest before the cruise, you would arrive into Budapest on Sunday 10 December.  This probably means you would fly from home on Saturday 9 December and take an overnight flight to Europe.

You will probably arrive into Budapest some time in the afternoon.

You can make your way to our lovely hotel with a great location, tons of history and charm in the center of stately Budapest, the former co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

An optional airport 'Meet and Greet' and transfer with English speaking driver can be added if you'd like this extra comfort and convenience.

You have the rest of today to explore Budapest as you wish.

(Monday 11 December) - Danube Bend Touring, Ship Embarkation

The former artist colony of Szentendre, described by some as 'the town that time forgot' features lovely cobblestoned streets and fascinating boutique stores. Visegrad Castle strategically overlooks the Danube and surrounding region.  In its center is the Solomon Tower where Dracula was imprisoned. The Basilica in Esztergom, where Hungarian kings were formerly coronated, dominates the skyline and historic township.

After breakfast this morning we go on a lovely tour to three towns adjacent to the Danube river in the area known as the 'Danube bend' (because the Danube bends 90 degrees from flowing east to then flowing south).

We'll be joined today by the people who also did Option 2 (ie two nights in Budapest - see below).

First stop is Szentendre.  This town is famous for its many art galleries and museums.  Its history stretches all the way back to the iron ages, and has been held by various powers - the Romans, the Huns and the Turks, before becoming Hungarian in 1690.  Small sized buildings and sparkling colors create the ambience in which its artistic culture thrives.

Our next stop is Visegrad, a strategic town with its 13th century citadel on top an 1100 ft hill dominating the region and the river.  This was the repository for the Hungarian crown jewels until 1543 when the Turks invaded (the jewels are now are on display in Budapest).

The castle's Solomon Tower is where Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula) was imprisoned between 1462-74.

We'll enjoy a traditional Hungarian lunch then continue on to Esztergom, home of Hungary's largest church, extending 330 ft in height.  This is the third largest church in Europe, and looks somewhat incongruous in what, today, appears to be a modest township.

Like both the other two towns we visit, it has a history dating back to pre-history, and was the birthplace of the first King of Hungary (St Stephen) and for a period was where the Kings of Hungary were crowned.

Tantalizing ruins of its former grandeur are interspersed with more modern architecture.

We then return back to Budapest and to the Amacerto.  Please now move down to the green bordered cruise itinerary section.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (then dinner on the ship)


Optional Extension 2 A second night in Budapest, Sunday touring to Bratislava

(Saturday 9 December) - Budapest

Optional Extension 2 would have you arriving into Budapest one day earlier, on Saturday 9 December.

Maybe you decide to arrive into Budapest two days before boarding the ship, ie on Saturday 9 December.

That's a great idea, because it gives you more time to 'recharge' after your flight, and allows you to see and do considerably more.

In such a case, you'd fly from home on Friday 8 December, taking an overnight flight that would arrive on Saturday 9 December.

You will probably arrive into Budapest some time in the afternoon.

You can make your way to our lovely hotel with a great location, tons of history and charm in the center of stately Budapest, the former co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

An optional airport 'Meet and Greet' and transfer with English speaking driver can be added if you'd like this extra comfort and convenience.

You have the rest of today to explore Budapest as you wish.

(Sunday 10 December) -
Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava's main Christmas market is in its historic town square.
Bratislava and its castle, as seen at night from the Danube.

After breakfast this morning we will travel to Bratislava.

Depending on how many people in our group, we might do this by comfortable fast train, or we might do it by chartered coach.

Or, maybe, we'll go one way by coach and one way by train!  Either way, it is just under 3 hours travel time.

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and is a lovely city with a beautiful Christmas market in their main town square, just a couple of blocks from the river.  Restaurants abound, and exquisite Slovakian crystal can be found in the retail stores.

There's plenty of history as well, with city walls and gates that date back to the 1300s.

We'll enjoy free time to sightsee and eat and drink and shop as we wish, then will return back to Budapest and meet up with our fellow travelers who are arriving for the one night option.

Included Meals: Breakfast

(Monday 11 December) -
Danube Bend - see Option 1

The river Danube as it flows around its 'bend' section, north of Budapest.  Please see the details in Option 1 above for what we see and do on this day.

On Monday we will go touring to the Danube Bend together with the people who chose only the Option 1 package, then board the Amacerto.

Please see above for details of this in the Option 1 section, above.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (on the Amacerto)


Optional Extension - More time in Budapest
(Friday 8 Dec and earlier)

Budapest's Great Market Hall - pick up some paprika, some fresh fruit, enjoy some artisanal food, and people watch in this huge covered market complex.

Maybe visit one of Budapest's famous historic spa baths

If you wish to spend still more time in and around Budapest, then by all means arrive into the city earlier.

There is plenty to see and enjoy in this stately city that reminds one, wherever one looks, of when it was the joint co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through until 1918.  (It shared this designation with Vienna.)

Let us know if we can help with suggestions for how to fill extra time in Budapest.


Main Cruise Itinerary

Day 1 (Monday 11 December)  :  Board our cruise boat, the Amacerto, in Budapest

Our nearly new sleek slender boat is the lovely Amacerto.  Bratislava Castle is in the background.

A special treat is a nighttime cruise along the Danube in Budapest to see all the evening Christmas lights.  This is their Parliament building.

If Amawaterways is providing your transfer, you will be met at the airport and transferred to the pier to embark onto the Amacerto.

The crew will be preparing the cabins for arriving passengers, and you are given access to your cabin as soon as it becomes available, generally by 4pm, and in time to prepare for the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Reception prior to our first dinner on board.

You can spend your time relaxing in the ship’s lounge or doing some exploring on your own in Hungary’s beautiful capital.

After dinner the ship sails to do an 'Illuminations Cruise' around Budapest, showing all the gloriously lit buildings and bridges before returning back to the dock.

Included meals - Dinner

Day 2 (Tuesday 12 December) :  Budapest

A section of the massive Buda Royal Castle, as seen from the Pest side of the Danube during the day.  It too looks lovely at night.

Christmas gifts galore are yours to choose from in all the markets we visit along the Danube.

Included Budapest Tour :  After breakfast, a morning sightseeing tour includes historic Buda Castle, where we have a splendid view of the twin cities of Buda and Pest spread over both banks of the River.

The tour also features 500-year old Matthias Church, St. Stephen’s Basilica, distinctive Fisherman’s Bastion, the marvelous Royal Palace and much more in this city, the former co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, redolent with splendid palaces and magnificent buildings.

And - oh yes.  Christmas markets, of course!

After some free time to stroll around the city, we are then transferred by coach to rejoin the ship, which - to save time - has already started sailing towards Vienna.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 (Wednesday 13 December) :  Vienna

Vienna's main markets in front of the imposing Town Hall.  Perhaps also visit the less touristy Spittelberg markets.

A Vienna street scene in the evening, illuminated by the Christmas lighting.
Take a tour of, or perhaps attend a performance in, the Vienna State Opera House.

We arrive into Vienna this morning.  The city is considered by some as the musical capital of the world and is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Included Vienna Tour :  We arrive into Vienna after breakfast, and set off on a coach and walking tour of one of Europe’s most elegant and romantic cities.

Our tour features the remarkable Ringstrasse, lined with imposing palaces and grand residences, encircling the medieval Innere Stadt (Inner City). See the magnificent Hofburg Palace, glorious St. Stephan’s Cathedral with its gleaming spire and the beautiful State Opera House.

We'll return to the ship for lunch (but you're welcome to stay in the city if you prefer).

During the afternoon, perhaps make your way to the Rathausplatz, site of Vienna’s main Christmas Market. Begun on a small scale in 1294, it has grown to be Austria’s largest Christmas Market and truly transforms beautiful Vienna into an enchanted holiday wonderland.

During your free time, you may want to take a ride on a traditional horse-drawn fiaker, have some mouthwatering Viennese pastry such as the famous Sacher Torte, or visit the wonderful Art History Museum.

After dinner onboard ship, we offer a special Travel Insider bonus - a free concert, held in one of the city’s palaces.  The concert features compositions by Mozart and Strauss performed by a Viennese orchestra.

The ship leaves Vienna shortly before midnight after a magical day in this glorious city.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 (Thursday 14 December) :  Wachau Valley, Melk, Linz

We stop at Melk Abbey, 900 years old, and dramatically perched on the cliffs above the Danube River.  As you can see, its enormous size dwarfs the town below.
The stunning interior of one of the rooms in the library section of Melk Abbey.
We arrive in Linz, dating back to Roman times early this evening.  This picture shows a fascinating contrast between a new tram and old buildings in one of its central squares, and of course, a Christmas Market.  

River Cruising & Included Melk Abbey Tour :  We cruise through a beautiful untouched stretch of the Danube called the Strudengau, and through the World Heritage site of the Wachau Valley during the early morning, arriving in Melk.

Disembark for an excursion to the dramatic 900-year-old baroque Melk Abbey, perched on sheer cliffs high above the Danube. Its cherub-filled library boasts 365 windows—one for every day of the year. The interior of the Abbey’s church is a kaleidoscope of red, orange and gold—with a magnificent carved pulpit and shimmering ceiling frescoes.

The Abbey is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and most deservedly so - its library in particular has an extraordinary collection of medieval manuscripts, and the church interior has elaborate frescos.  The Abbey is still a working school, and more recently was featured in Umberto Eco's book, The Name of the Rose.

The ship continues cruising through the afternoon, and docks in Linz in the early hours of the evening with some free time to visit the Linz Christmas markets.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 (Friday 15 December) :  Linz to Passau - option to Salzburg

If there is a more beautiful town in all of Austria than Salzburg, I've yet to see it.
You'll find gifts and treats of all types in the varied Christmas markets we visit on our tour/cruise.  Bring an extra suitcase with you and solve all your Christmas gift giving challenges!
A sister ship, the Amadolce, moored in Passau.

River Cruising or Tour to Salzburg :  After breakfast, most of us will choose to disembark for a coach excursion to Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace and one of Europe’s major music centers.

See the stunning exterior of Schloss Mirabell, featured in the classic film, The Sound of Music. You’ll enjoy a walking tour featuring Salzburg Old Town, a gem of baroque architecture that is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the courtyard of baroque St. Peter’s Church, the former home of Mozart, and charming Getreidegasse.

Getreidegasse is Salzburg’s most famous shopping lane surrounded by high, narrow houses and lined with enticing shops with wrought iron guild signs and secluded courtyards.

Have lunch as it suits you at a local restaurant and then enjoy some free time to explore on your own. You’ll find Christmas Market stalls and decorations in various places around the city, especially in especially in Mirabell Square.

In the late afternoon, we'll drive to Passau, where the ship has sailed to meet us.  On the way we'll visit the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg - you might never have heard of the town, but you've surely heard the Christmas carol composed here in 1818 - Stille Nacht, or, in English, Silent Night.

The ship remains docked in Passau overnight, so you can disembark for an evening stroll and to see more Christmas markets, after dinner, if you like.

Note - the Salzburg tour is an option.  If you prefer, simply enjoy a leisurely day on board Amacerto, cruising from Linz to Passau.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch (on ship), Dinner

Day 6 (Saturday 16 December) :  Regensburg

The old town of Regensburg survived World War 2 virtually intact, and so is a treasure trove of ancient medieval architecture.
I am enjoying a mug of gluhwein at my favorite market in Regensburg.

Included Regensburg Tour, Christmas Market & Leisure Time :  After a morning's cruising and lunch, disembark for a walking tour of the town, one of Germany’s largest and (since it suffered virtually no damage in World War II) best-preserved medieval cities, and now a World Heritage site.

See the gleaming spires of Gothic St. Peter’s church with its stained glass, the Old Town Hall and the 12th century Stone Bridge, which is Germany’s oldest bridge. After the tour, you’ll enjoy a visit to the town’s Old Corn Market, which is the location of Regensburg’s venerable Christmas Market.

You have time to stroll through the stalls and do some shopping at your own pace.

This evening we have a chance to visit my favorite of all the Christmas markets, the wonderful market set inside the grounds of the Thurn und Taxis palace.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 (Sunday 17 December) :  Nuremberg

We'll tour around Nuremberg's old town, seen here with the castle in the background.
The sprawling main town square markets in Nuremberg, the largest in the world.

River Cruising :  During the morning, we travel along the modern engineering marvel, the Main-Danube Canal, as it traverses the Franconian Alps via 16 enormous locks.

Included Nuremberg Tour & Christmas Market :  After lunch, we will have arrived into Nuremberg, and will enjoy a panoramic tour of this medieval city surrounded by 13th-century walls.

Today Nuremberg evokes the notorious post-World War II war crimes trials, but throughout its history, the city was known for its handcrafts, particularly toys and fancy metalwork. You’ll see where the trials were held and the grounds where Nazi rallies were held, as well as the imposing Imperial Castle.

After the city tour, visit the city’s renowned Christmas Market. With a 400-year history, Nuremberg’s Christkindelsmarkt (Christ Child Market) is Germany’s - and the entire world's - largest and most famous Christmas market.

Amidst beautiful holiday decorations, you’ll stroll past stall after stall offering everything from ceramics and porcelain to Christmas decorations and toys. Sample mouthwatering local delicacies from hot mulled wine and marzipan to Nuremberg’s famous bratwurst and gingerbread.

The ship stays in Nuremberg overnight.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 (Monday 18 December) :  Cruise ends in Nuremberg

One of the Amawaterways fleet moored in Vilshofen.

Our lovely Danube Christmas Markets Cruise comes to an end this morning.

Because we arrived into Nuremberg yesterday, you can take flights onward or homeward at any time you wish.

Alternatively, please continue reading down for a lovely optional extension and a great way to end your tour.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Optional Extra 1 Two nights to Prague

(Monday 18 December) :  To Karlovy Vary via Bayreuth

Bayreuth's 'other' opera house - the Margravial Opera House - is stunning, and deservedly a World Heritage site.  Click the image to open a larger more detailed picture.
One of Karlovy Vary's Grand Promenades.
The Grand Hotel Pupp, often featured in movies due to its grandeur.

This is a wonderful addition to your core cruise experience, showing you more parts of Europe, away from the Danube.

We start with a short journey to the small town of Bayreuth, famous not only for its extraordinarily ornate Margravian Opera House, but also for the Festspielhaus, designed and built by Richard Wagner as a dedicated site where his operas could be perfectly performed.  This is the holiest of holies for Wagner lovers the world over, and still each summer presents his operas with the world's finest singers.

After lunch we continue on to Karlovy Vary (formerly known as Carlsbad) in the Czech Republic.

Although this spa town dates back to 1358, it came into its own in the 19th century when 'taking the waters' became fashionable across Europe, due to its 12 natural springs with hot mineral water.

Grand buildings abound, along with stately walkways.  The city is also known for its Moser glassware.

And if you don't wish to drink the strong flavored mineral water, it is also home of Becherovka, a herbal bitter liqueur.

We'll spend the balance of the afternoon and the evening in Karlovy Vary.

Included Meals: Breakfast


(Tuesday 19 December) :  To Prague via Holasovice and Cesky Krumlov

Some of the distinctively styled buildings in Holasovice village.
Beautiful Cesky Krumlov, surrounded on three sides by river, and guarded protectively by a castle.

Three different World Heritage experiences today!

We first travel to Holasovice village, an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a traditional central European village. It has a large number of outstanding 18th and 19th century vernacular buildings in a style known as 'South Bohemian folk Baroque', and preserves a ground plan dating from the Middle Ages

Next it is on to Cesky Krumlov, a beautifully preserved medieval town on the banks of the Vltava river (Moldau), with a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements.

We'll stop here for lunch and an exploration around this lovely town, then continue on to our final destination for the day, Prague.

Included Meals: Breakfast


(Wednesday 20 December) :  Prague

A typical stately street scene in Prague.

After breakfast at our hotel in Prague this morning, this two night option comes to an end.

Most people will choose to stay an extra night in Prague, which is described in the Option 2 section, immediately following.

Included Meals: Breakfast



Optional Extra 2 Add an Extra Day and Night in Prague

(Wednesday 20 December) :  Prague Tour and Dinner

Looking across the Vltava river, Charles Bridge on the left, and Prague Castle in the background.
Our underground cellar restaurant serving us wonderful traditional Czech food for dinner this evening.

Most people will want to see a bit of glorious Prague and so will stay for this extra day and night.

We provide the ideal combination of convenience and flexibility for you today.

We offer you a half day tour of the highlights of Prague, then allow you the other half day to explore and see what you wish, as you wish.

You can choose to enjoy lunch as and how you wish, and then for dinner, we have a very special event - a dinner in one of Prague's best cellar restaurants, with an excellent location close to the main square (and close to our hotel).

Wonderful Czech traditional dishes, large mugs of Czech beer, some gypsy music, and good company - what better way to mark the end of our European Christmas Experience!

Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


(Thursday 21 December) :  Prague

Prague's famous Astronomical Clock in the tower on the left, our restaurant last night under one of the arches on the right, our hotel just out of sight, down an alleyway in the background.

This extra day and night in Prague comes to an end after breakfast in the hotel this morning.

If you wish, you can of course stay longer in Prague - see the next option.  Alternatively, if you leave for home today, you'll probably be back later on Thursday, still giving you three days before Christmas back home.

Included Meals: Breakfast



Optional Extra Thursday night in Prague

(Thursday 21 December) :  Another day in Prague

The Christmas Market in Prague close to our hotel.

If you're not in a rush to head home, why not stay in Prague for another day and night.

There's plenty to see and do in the Prague area, and if you wish, why not actually do nothing at all except stroll around the historical city center and enjoy some of the delicious foods in the Christmas markets and restaurants.

Included Meals: Breakfast


(Friday 22 December) :  Prague and onwards

If you spent Thursday also in Prague, this morning, after breakfast, is when you'd then choose what to do and where to do it next.

Maybe stay in Europe for Christmas?

We're here to help if you'd like some suggestions and help with additional arrangements.

Note - the schedule sometimes changes slightly to fit in with lock times, etc, and so this itinerary may slightly change between now and departure.

Click here for the main details of this cruise and the booking form to confirm your interest.

Click here for a day by day photo journal of what you'll see and enjoy on a Christmas Markets Cruise.


Originally published 13 Apr 2017, last update 30 May 2021

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